Intentional living: If a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly

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No, that’s not a typo.

If you’re a perfectionist (and/or a control freak. It's faintly possible I'm both), you’ll know what it is to be fixated on doing a thing well. When I write, I know exactly how I want my voice to come across. When I decorate I know exactly how I want the finished space to look. And when I am planning my wardrobe I know the exact style of jumper that I need to make everything work. And so, when I am in the midst of that process, I frequently get completely bogged down in the detail and fail to actually, you know, do anything. In my case this is particularly true of creative endeavours, but I'm not fussy, I like to apply my perfectionism everywhere.

Now this is a proper ‘lessons from your mother’ moment, as when I used to get completely stuck on something in this way my mother used to say ‘if a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.’ And I would eye roll. But in my own way and in my own time, I’ve come to see the value in her words (don’t tell her I said that).

Obviously I don’t actually aim to do things badly - ideally everything in my life would be beautiful and perfect and lovely first time round, but back here in the real world that doesn’t always go to plan. Sometimes, you need to just have a go. Yes, it might not be perfect first time, and you and the rest of the world may not stop and gasp in wonder at the marvel of what you have achieved, but actually, sometimes just doing it is enough. Sometimes, it might really be a bit of a crap job and you have to just go ‘huh. Oh well’ and start all over again, but actually that doesn’t happen too often.

Take my floor. Don’t take it, obviously. Just look at it, up there, all shiny and light grey and minimalist. When we moved into this house two years ago, it was carpeted in a delightful tapestry of salmon pink (hallway), burgundy (dining room) and brown (bathroom). I spent months agonising over flooring choices to replace it, debating between various quality products, getting in a twist about how we would merge the new flooring with the even newer flooring when we eventually extend the house, generally completely failing to make any sort of progress on actually improving our living space in the here and now. After a few months, I finally had a word with myself and decided that some progress was better than no progress (seriously, those carpets were something else).

I ripped up the carpet. Just like that. What was underneath was not, tragically, original parquet flooring or vintage tiles, but BLACK. The alarming blackness turned out to be bitumen coated concrete, as is the case with many 1950s ex-council houses. One trip to B&Q and many litres of floor paint later and a perfectly serviceable floor was created.

It’s needed a few touch ups over the past couple of years - our house is tiny and there are five of us living here, so every last square inch is well used and well worn - but it’s enabled us to save our money to get the whole of the ground floor done when we extend, and given me time to live in the house and get a better feel for the kind of finish we eventually need in these rooms. Done, in this instance, was very much better than procrastination in the name of perfection.

Another note about things that are worth doing. The unutterable joy of, just occasionally, doing something ‘badly’ and discovering that ‘badly’ (i.e. differently to the very controlled and precise vision in your head) is actually better than anything you had previously imagined. It doesn’t happen every time, but for a perfectionist like me it’s a good reminder that sometimes 100% control over every aspect of the creative process isn’t required.

Sometimes, you just need to make a start. Don’t let perfection stand in the way of progress.

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